In America, we seem to focus on a cause each month, and February is one of the most popular months, perhaps because it’s so short and cold, without much else to do!  February is known as Black History Month, National Bird-Feeding Month, Parent Leadership Month, Healthy Heart Month, and the focus of today’s blog, Responsible Pet Ownership Month.

Those of us who love and own pets know that they are part of our family.  But, we’ve all heard of heart-breaking instances of neglect and irresponsibility.  Pet ownership is a huge undertaking, one that means a commitment to years of work and care.  Every day, pets are abandoned or left at shelters because the owners did not completely understand the degree of commitment required to care for the pet.  Make sure if you adopt a pet from the many wonderful shelters in Maine, that you know what you’re in for.

One of the most important things to do when getting a new pet is to make sure it is spayed or neutered.  Most shelters will not allow you to adopt a pet unless you agree to spay/neuter it and often require prepayment for the surgery if the pet is too young for the procedure.  It’s been shown that spayed and neutered pets live longer and have less behavior problems.  And the population of possibly neglected pets goes down considerably.  

PetSafe has a great list of tips to consider when becoming a responsible pet owner.

As an insurance agency, we can’t talk about responsible pet ownership without talking about dogs and liability insurance.  There is a lot of controversy about whether certain breeds of dogs are being unfairly targeted by insurance companies, but the truth is this:  Sometimes dogs bite people and sometimes the results are tragic, especially if a child is involved.  If you have liability coverage on your homeowners and umbrella policies, there is the potential for HUGE payments if your dog injures someone.  So, insurance companies will ask you about your dogs.  Be up front and work with us so we can make sure you are covered.

Make sure your pet is safe.  Here are some tips in a recent newsletter of one of our insurance companies, MMG Insurance:

“Dog bites can be devastating, especially if it involves a young child, and they happen more frequently than you might think. While some breeds of dogs can be more prone to bites, any dog, large or small, under the right circumstances can bite someone and do extensive damage.  If you are a dog owner,please keep the following tips in mind.

• Always supervise young children when around dogs. Never leave them unattended in the same room and keep them at a safe distance if at all possible.
• If your dog has a history of bites, you should consider putting the pet down or giving it to someone who has an environment better suited to the dog. Always inform of the dog’s history of bites or you could be liable to the new owner should the dog bite them.
• Be sure to tell your insurance company you have a dog and what the breed is. Failing to do so can jeopardize liability coverage should the animal bite someone.
• If you have strangers over, be sure to keep them at a distance until the dog becomes familiar with them.
• Always keep your dog on a leash or run and don’t allow it to leave your property unless it is with you and under your control.”